When Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia ordered the blanket restoration of voting rights to more than 200,000 former felons in April, Republicans who control the state legislature swiftly filed a petition in court, accusing him of exceeding his authority. And when the state’s highest court agreed on Friday, voiding the governor’s declaration in a biting ruling, that briefly seemed to put the matter to rest. But Mr. McAuliffe is not giving up so easily. And the decision may have laid the groundwork for more legal and political maneuvering in a state that both presidential campaigns regard as a major prize. After the Virginia Supreme Court said on Friday that the governor could restore voting rights only on a case-by-case basis, Mr. McAuliffe said he would forgo his blanket declaration — and, instead, individually sign about 206,000 restoration orders for ex-felons, including 13,000 who had registered after his April order. “I cannot accept that this overtly political action could succeed in suppressing the voices of many thousands of men and women,” the governor said in a statement. “The struggle for civil rights has always been a long and difficult one, but the fight goes on.”
Christina Nuckols, Mr. McAuliffe’s deputy communications director, said in a statement on Monday that the governor intended to comply with the court’s ruling and would “expeditiously” review the 13,000 former felons who had already registered, then address the remainder.
To carry that out, the governor would have to sign roughly 385 orders a day until the end of his term. That pace could rankle skeptical Republicans, one of whom warned on Monday that they would go back to court if Mr. McAuliffe tried to accomplish by autopen what the court denied him last week. “The governor has defiantly said he will find a way to circumvent the court,” said Rob Bell, a Republican member of the Virginia House of Delegates and a former prosecutor. “We will certainly reserve our legal remedies based on what he does.”
The legal dispute carries a political subtext. Republicans have accused the governor of extending voting rights to ex-felons in an effort to expand the Democratic electorate in Virginia, a potential swing state in November’s presidential election. About 45 percent of the ex-felons are black, and, nationally, more than 90 percent of blacks who voted favored President Obama in 2008 and 2012.